10 takeaways from the Patriots’ preseason loss to the Raiders – Pats Pulpit

10 takeaways from the Patriots' preseason loss to the Raiders - Pats Pulpit

The New England Patriots exclaimed from the Las Vegas Raiders on Friday night, and there wasn’t much positive to come out of the game. Hopefully I can find one or two but it was a terrible game to watch.

Anyway, let’s get into the final 10 takeaways of the preseason and New England’s 23-6 loss.

The first-team offense struggles: The Raiders didn’t play most of their starters on defense, but the Patriots still looked terrible on the offensive side of the ball. From a terrible Mac Jones interception, to the offensive line once again being unable to open up any running lanes, it was just an absolute mess.

Hunter Henry was tackled in space by a backup linebacker, and couldn’t even fight for a first down. Michael Onwenu has looked to struggle again at guard, and there should be a real concern if he can play in this type of offense.

There were also some bright spots. When Mac Jones ran forward, and not 20 yards back, he looked pretty quick, and even made a nice throw on the run to Henry. Kendrick Bourne finally got back on the field, and had some catches, as he tries to get back to where he was at the end of last year. There were a lot of questions about how the offense would look this year, and training camp and the preseason did nothing to ease the concerns of Patriots fans.

Let’s just hope it looks a lot better in two weeks.

The first team defense is also struggling: The Raiders didn’t play their starters on offense either, but, like the offense, the Patriots’ first-team defense struggled anyway. The unit struggled at every level, having a tough time against the run and the pass. It wasn’t all bad, as you still got to see some of their players shine, but it was pretty ugly overall.

Kyler Dugger got beat pretty good on a pass, but then made a nice play in the run game. Jahlani Tavai continues to show almost nothing, getting smoked on another pass by another backup tight end. There is a lot of optimism for the defense this year, but they will need to play significantly better going forward.

One reason they may have struggled is that there was almost certainly no game plan, and they were playing against a play caller and quarterback, Jarrett Stidham, who know the system quite well. Regardless, that shouldn’t be able to happen when supposed starters are playing against backups.

Mac Jones Year 2 jumps into hiatus? Mac Jones looked uncomfortable for much of training camp, and that trend continued Friday night. He certainly wasn’t the only one who played poorly, but he looked more like a rookie this year than maybe all of last year. He just doesn’t seem to be comfortable in this new-style offense, and, at a certain point, one might start to wonder if that scheme change was the right decision.

I trust Bill Belichick to do the right thing, and this might be the best offense for this team long term, but right now, it’s getting harder and harder to see how this is the right move for 2022.

JJ Taylor intervenes: You never like to see an injury, but certainly not in the preseason. Ty Montgomery had a great camp, and looked poised to have a big role in the Patriots offense this season. He went down with what appeared to be a serious ankle injury in the first quarter, though, and that may not be the case this year.

On the other hand, JJ Taylor has worked out his bum, and looked good in preseason. With two young backs behind him, though, he seemed to be on the outside looking in for the starting 53-man roster all summer. Montgomery’s injury could certainly open up a spot for Taylor, and give him another chance to prove he can be a contributor here.

Jack Jones appears (literally): Jack Jones has been pretty solid in coverage, and continued to show just that on Friday night, but it was his hitting that really popped off the screen. He had a tackle on the sideline that forced a fumble, and had another that knocked a pass away. He’s not a big guy, but this is the stuff that’s all over his college tape, and I think it’s something we can see expected from him moving forward.

He definitely makes the list because of his fourth-round draft status, but I think we could see Jones play a good amount of snaps before the end of the season as well.

The offensive line is a mess: The starting offensive line has really struggled this preseason, but the backups haven’t been much better. The zone runs are difficult because one missed block, even on the back, means what could have been a solid run turns out to be a loss, or a run for no gain. Micheal Onwenu in particular has struggled on these type of plays, but they just can’t get consistent play from almost anyone on the line.

The other thing is that guys like Trent Brown and Isaiah Wynn have a history of not being able to stay healthy. With Justin Herron looking pretty rough, and Yodny Cajuste looking good, but finally able to stay healthy since being drafted in 2019, there should be a real concern for the protection on the edges of the O-line.

I think it will look better as the season goes on, but it will have to look a lot better very quickly, or the Patriots will be in trouble early in the season.

Kevin Harris pretty much makes a case for the roster: I thought Kevin Harris might get a redshirt season, in part because I thought he was very similar in style to Damien Harris’ roster. While that could still be true, he continues to look impressive, and has also shown good hands coming out of the backfield.

He is pretty consistently outmatched with rookie Pierre Strong Jr. (which, in fairness, was slowed by injury recovery) all camp. The biggest problem with Harris on Friday night is that he put the ball on the ground twice.

During his long run, the ground caused the fumble, so that the Patriots held the ball, but later he lost a fumble towards the end of the game. Fumbling is something the Patriots don’t mind, and so his speed and receiving might not be enough to get him on the roster.

Some list locations are locked: There are a lot of questions at the back end of the roster, but it looks like at least two guys have locked up spots for this season. Those guys are undrafted rookies Brenden Schooler and DaMarcus Mitchell.

Schooler played on almost every special teams unit, and did a great job there. Mitchell did the same on special teams, but also showed some real flashes on the defensive line. We always love to talk about UDFAs, but it looks like these two have carved out a role for themselves this season.

The dream seems to be over: Everyone knows my prominent position on the Tre Nixon Hype Train, but I just don’t see how he makes the 53-man roster. For the second week in a row, he dropped a deep pass, and, this week, the quarterback didn’t even put his hand in there. Nixon should have no trouble returning to the practice squad, and I still think there’s a chance for him to make an impact at some point in New England. It just looks like it won’t be this season, though.

The regular season is almost here: This offseason has been rough for the Patriots. It started by losing a lot of their coaches, with Josh McDaniels going to Las Vegas and taking several assistants with him. Bill Belichick decided to replace McDaniels with Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, and, for now, that seems to be a questionable decision at best. I’ll keep saying it, but I trust Bill Belichick to know what he’s doing, so I’ll never count this team out. It wasn’t great, though.

They also decided to move on from both JC Jackson and Stephon Gilmore last season, and head into the season with a ton of unproven players on the defensive side of the ball. These moves have left the Patriots with a lot more questions than answers right now, but my hope is that they start to look better once the plays actually count and game planning comes into play as well.

The good news is that they seem to have a very good draft again, so they are adding to their stockpile of young talent. Not sure how much the rookies can help this year, but knowing there is some young talent and athleticism in the pipeline is a good thing.

Training camp and the preseason have been hard to watch at times, but I think, like everything, there are some positives to take away from what the Patriots have done this spring and summer. Fortunately, the next time I write one of these it will be the regular season, and I think that might be the best thing about the game last night: preseason is finally over.

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